Malcolm Butler: I wanted to confront Bill Belichick during the Super Bowl

As Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler stood on the sideline and watched his teammates get carved up by the Eagles’ offense in Super Bowl LII, he was tempted to confront Patriots coach Bill Belichick and ask why he’d been benched. But Butler kept quiet.

Belichick has still not explained why he benched Butler, or why he didn’t put Butler on the field when it became clear how much the Patriots’ defense was going to struggle without him. Butler would like that explanation, but he may never get it.

Dontari Poe is gone, and Athyba Rubin and Courtney Upshaw are not under contract, either. So the Falcons need a versatile, explosive option for their defensive line rotation to support tackle Grady Jarrett. Payne is the best fit for Atlanta should he slip this far, but Bryan would be a nice consolation prize.

The Saints were a good pass-rushing team last season in terms of sacks (42), but it was pretty much done by committee beyond the dominance of Cameron Jordan. They need another dangerous edge rusher and have looked closely at the versatile Key right in their own backyard. With Key available, he becomes an easy pick over a tight end.

“The most direct and honest answer is: no need to worry, good conversations are happening, they are positive and there’s no timetable for this,” Blank wrote in an e-mail.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said this week he thought the deal was “close,” but given the size of Ryan’s impending deal, who knows how long it takes to bridge the gap.

Ryan’s clearly a better player than Kirk Cousins, but doesn’t have the benefit of an open amrket to drive his value higher, which would be the only thing that keeps him from a bigger deal than the $84 million over three years Cousins got from Minnesota.

By not getting Ryan’s deal done previously, the Falcons weren’t able to do much in free agency this spring. If they can get it done before the season, the cap savings can be funneled into extensions for players such as left tackle Jake Matthews and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, whose deals are up after this season.bills_051

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